A friend of mine insisted that I read this book. I agreed to try, but remained skeptical of what I perceived to be a book for children. But not only is it an exceptionally good childrens' book, it can easily be appreciated by adults too. Its unassuming, simple and direct approach serves to make the novel emotionally very powerful. One feels that the somewhat basic nature of the emotions and language merely portrays the minds of children accurately, compared to, for example, Brontë's Jane Eyre, who (to me, at least) is a totally unconvincing 10 year old. William feels far more real. Here the emotions are far more primal, and William's transformation as an individual is magnificent to behold.
Perhaps the contrast of good and evil, and the romanticization of the countryside, are overly strong elements at times, but Magorian is able to contained these with limited amounts of accurate historical information, and the almost tangible realism that results serves to make the book believeable. Or rather, William's character is believeable. Zach, George, Mrs Hartfield, even Tom felt somewhat false to me, and my biggest regret for this novel is that Tom is not developed further. But it is a story that is focussed around William, and it is William's story of his life and emotional growth that I'm sure will draw me back to the book in years to come.